New Chromecasts revealed: Chromecast Audio streams music to dumb speakers

30 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

All the new products from Google’s event in one handy list.

Google today pulled the sheets off a bevy of new products including their new Nexus phones, a redesigned Chromecast, an all-new Chromecast Audio device, along with updates to several of their popular apps.

Google’s secret weapon for getting inside our homes and deeper within the fabric of our daily lives is not smart appliance maker Nest or even its ubiquitous Android operating system. Both these devices will be priced at $35 (approx Rs 2,400) which was also the price of the original Chromecast (launched in 2013), and will start selling in around 17 countries soon. They also delivered a sneak peek at the intriguing Pixel C (a keyboard-enabled answer to Apple’s iPad Pro, it seemed.) Primary camera: 12.3MP with f/2.0 aperture and 1.55 micron pixel size, IR laser-assisted autofocus and 4K video recording (no optical image stabilization) Key features: Fingerprint sensor, dual front speakers, optimized battery with doze mode and motion detection for smartly reducing power consumption, 30fps primary camera burst mode, larger camera sensor pixels for better low-light performance Primary camera: 12.3MP with f/2.0 aperture and 1.55 micron pixel size, IR laser-assisted autofocus and 4K video recording (no optical image stabilization) Key features: Fingerprint sensor, dual front speakers, optimized battery with doze mode and motion detection for smartly reducing power consumption, 30fps primary camera burst mode, larger camera sensor pixels for better low-light performance, three color options (Carbon black, Quartz white and Ice blue) – Smartphone games can be played on Chromecast on both Android and iOS along with multiplayer support. You can get out an old speaker and attach it to Chromecast’s 3.5mm stereo plug, and Chromecast can stream music to it from apps such as Spotify and Google Music.

Like the first Chromecast, which was brought to market in 2013, the new Chromecast for video plugs into the back of a TV set via an HDMI port, and it mirrors, or casts, content from the Chromecast mobile app to TV screens. As with the regular Chromecast, media morphs from being played on your device to being streamed directly from the cloud to your Chromecast connected device, so there is no battery drain.

The Chromecast, which Google refreshed today with a 2.0 version for video and a new device solely for audio streaming, has sold 20 million units since 2013. If you have a series of speakers you can choose which ones to stream to, and you can pump synchronised music through each speaker throughout your home. And the expanded product family is poised to continue sucking up key infrastructure in the home media system thanks to its low-cost and ever-expanding feature set, which now includes Spotify support and universal search. Further Chromecast includes a guest mode where family members and visitors to your home can access your Chromecast system on your home network, and select tracks to play on each speaker.

With party goers collaborating, there’s no need for a DJ, but Chromecast audio could lead to age-old arguments about which track is going to play next. The Chromecast is a no-frills device — you just tap its icon in whatever app you’re looking at and the Chromecast moves, or “casts,” the image to your TV. While Amazon has never disclosed sales figures for its Fire Stick, Roku only last year hit 10 million devices sold, making the Chromecast a comparable runaway success.

It comes with a ‘Fast Play’ feature that lets the Chromecast pre-fetch a video from an app and video content which it thinks you are most likely to watch even before you hit play. There’s a port for a microUSB connection that powers the devices and, in the case of Chromecast, an HDMI connection out or for Chromecast Audio, a stereo plug connection. Chromecast, as an infrastructure tool and not a content machine, is a tried-and-true strategy for Google: provide the piping, and it won’t matter much what products or services plug in or what comes out on the other end. Not much details were spoken about Fast Play, but it seems to be working based on your history of Chromecast use, loading videos faster than without the feature activated.

This time, however, Google is using a small, cheap piece of hardware to put itself between you and all of the music, television, movies, and games you have flying back and forth across your in-home Wi-Fi network. But don’t expect to see the new Chromecasts in Australia anytime soon, as Australia is not among the countries chosen to get it first, sometime later this year. If you wanted a TV with streaming apps like Netflix, you’d have to buy either one with clunky smart TV functionality or a TV alongside a streaming box that could cost as much as $100 to $200. The Chromecast was one of the first devices that turned a dumb home product into a smart one without creating the feeling that you were buying a version of a DVD player or video game console.

So you can browse through photographs on your phone, while viewing pictures on your TV, and your browsing photo activity will not be mirrored on your TV. Though the technical details are a little complicated (think coordination between your phone, the Chromecast’s software, and the web service delivering the video), the results are meant to equal less time waiting before you get your Narcos fix.

Google says there are now “thousands” of apps that support casting through Chromecast, compared with just a handful that were available at the product’s first launch. People with 4K TVs might be disappointed to learn that this second-generation Chromecast still doesn’t support 4K content, but Google says that’s something consumers can expect with Android TV.

Then there’s the Nexus Q, a spherical speaker and streaming device that performed so poorly at convincing consumers why it should exist that Google pulled it from its Play Store after four months and gave it away for free to anyone who preordered it. Its Google TV product, which launched in 2010, married a slow, confusing interface with undesirable hardware made by third-party manufacturing partners. The Chromecast Audio app also supports ‘guest mode’ which will let your friends add their music to your speakers if you are connected on the same network, even if they dont have your Wi-fi password.

That has now been reincarnated as Android TV, another attempt to take over the TV by running an Android OS on television sets made by Sony, Sharp, and Philips. Google says it has a reason to offer high- and low-end devices that, at their core, do the same stuff. “We do believe computers will be in TVs,” Rishi Chanda, the vice president of product management for Google’s TV efforts, told The Verge today. In that sense, the Android TV is an investment in that future, a product that will be ready for consumers when they upgrade their TV sets down the line, Chandra said. It’s not hard to imagine a Google-made go-between that outfits dumb or outdated home appliances with network connectivity or the ability to perform newer, more useful tasks.

Amazon is already using a similar approach to the smart home with its Alexa voice assistant, which comes baked into the Amazon Echo speaker and Fire Stick and now lets you control home automation products from Smart Things, Belkin, Philips, and Insteon. Well, for the same reasons Google offers both Chromecast and Android TV: we may not be ready now to live in a world of smart appliances, but for a few bucks here and there you could get close enough in the meantime.

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